Recovery Testimony: Father’s Death

Cartoon of Grace on her knees, punching her fist in the air while yelling, “Noooooo.”Continued from here.

As I shared in my last blog entry, I received Jesus as my Savior and Lord when I was 8 years old. I took my faith seriously. I was mocked for bring my Bible to school to read, and I read the entire Bible cover-to-cover when I was 14-15 years old. I even did a Bible study with my peers in my high school.

Then, halfway through my senior year of high school, my father dropped dead … just like that … and my world rocked. My mother was a stay-at-home mom, so we lost all family income. My mother understandably struggled emotionally with the sudden loss of her husband, so it felt like losing both parents rather than only one. My father’s extended family had a falling out with my mother, so no matter where I looked, I saw friction and discord.

I was angry with no “safe” place to aim my anger, so I aimed it at God. My attitude at the time was that if God was going to treat me this way — one of the few teenagers on the planet who actually took the time to read every word of the Bible — then I wanted nothing to do with Him … and I walked away. I refused to go to church. I stopped praying. I decided I was going to live my life in my own way with my #1 focus on becoming fully independent as quickly as possible. I graduated high school at age 17, college at age 20, and law school at age 23. I was determined to hold the reins of my own life and never have to depend on anyone for anything ever again.

Eleven years later, God wooed me back, and He was sneaky about it. My closest colleague at work became a Christian and had numerous questions. Her church friends didn’t know much about the Bible while I had read the entire book, so I wound up teaching her the basics of her newfound faith, even though I had rejected it myself. God softened my heart through this process.

This colleague then invited me to a new Bible study starting up at work because she didn’t want to go alone. She wound up dropping out after a few weeks for personal reasons, but by then, I wanted to stay … and I returned to God.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace on her knees yelling, “Nooooo.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Recovery Testimonies

helpNext week, I will be starting my coursework toward a master’s degree in Christian Ministry. (Yes, this old dog is going to learn some new tricks.) I am already reading through my textbooks in preparation for my classes, and I learned a new term: recovery testimony.

Of course, I’m familiar with salvation testimonies (stories about how people came to invite Jesus to be their Lord and Savior), and mine is pretty simple. I was 8 years old when my mother started bringing me to a Southern Baptist church. She explained the gospel to me, and I immediately invited Jesus into my heart. I created a bit of a controversy because I was adamant about being baptized right away, and the church didn’t typically baptize children that young. I had to convince the pastor that I fully understood the significance of baptism, which I did (to his amazement). That’s pretty much it.

My recovery testimonies, on the other hand, are powerful, and I have several of them. In a nutshell, a recovery testimony is your story about a time in which something blew up in your life, and God worked it out for good. The concept is encapsulated in this Bible verse, in which Joseph was talking with his brothers selling him into slavery:

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” ~ Gen. 50:20

In this series, I’ll be sharing three of my recovery testimonies. As you’ll see, I was faithful to God in some and completely rebellious in others. However, God was always faithful to me, and He worked all of them out for good. That’s one of the coolest things about God – that He can work even our own sin out for good.

Let’s face it – life is hard. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t have any need for perseverance, right? I hope that my recovery testimonies will inspire you as well as reassure you that it’s never too late to return to God. As you’ll see in my next blog entry, I returned to God after 11 years of rebellion. Even after rejecting God for over a decade, He still wanted me, and He pursued me until I came home.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace sinking in quicksand under the word, “Help!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Growth Zones

reclinerI was listening to KLOVE the other day and heard a profound quote shared by a caller:

There’s not much growth in a comfort zone … or much comfort in a growth zone.”

Wow! That hit me right between the eyes because I am deep into a “growth zone” and have experienced very little comfort lately. This saying brought it all into perspective – that there’s a reason for the discomfort, and God is working all of this for good.

I have been in physical discomfort for weeks now. To make a long story short, I am severely allergic to Urushiol, which is the “poison” in poison ivy, oak, and sumac. My dog got some Urushiol oil on his fur, rubbed against my leg, and gave me a tiny patch of poison oak – literally three tiny blisters. That was enough exposure to trigger systemic hives. After three weeks, a nine-day prescription of Prednisone, prescription steroid cream, and more over-the-counter anti-itch products than I can count, I’m still dealing with itching, and it’s not been fun.

Of course, there’s a part of me that does not understand why God won’t simply heal the rashes. If He could raise Jesus from the dead, then He has the power to stop hives, right? However, I have been learning in this Growth Zone a very difficult lesson – that life is not about me.

Interestingly, I am finding that the more I focus on my physical discomfort, the more miserable I become. However, when I focus on someone else, I “forget” about the itching for a while. That reinforces my point from this blog entry about how whatever we focus on magnifies. Magnified pride makes us miserable, but magnified compassion toward another person leads to joy.

I have been leaning heavily on what Paul wrote about the thorn in his flesh, trying to remember that

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” ~ 2 Cor. 12:9

I don’t like to feel weak, as I am sure is true for most of us. However, how else will I learn the power of God’s strength?

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace sleeping in a recliner. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Victory over Eating Disorder

god_is_biggerContinued from here.

I cannot identify the moment in which God healed my binge eating disorder. This healing was a “slow miracle.” The process was so gradual that I did not recognize all of the healing work that God was doing inside of me. One day, it hit me that I could not remember the last time I had binged on food, and I was shocked! After being enslaved to food just about daily for decades, I didn’t even recognize freedom when it came.

Being freed from the idolatry of an eating disorder was only the beginning. I still had to learn about food’s intended nature – to nurture my body, which is God’s temple. I had to learn how to choose food based upon what nourishes my body rather than on what tastes good. Over time, my tastes have changed so that I would truly rather snack on cashews than on a bag of Dorito’s. I no longer feel deprived by not eating junk food. I love my body and want to care for it as God’s temple, and that requires fruits and vegetables rather than chips and chocolate.

For decades, I had a love/hate relationship with food. Today, it’s just food. I need it to nourish my body, but I can also delay eating it to fast. Food has lost its power over me. This is all to the glory of God.

I know how hard I pushed the mountain of a food addiction, and that mountain would not budge. After inviting God in to heal me and free my from my prison, I experienced the miracle of this mountain being moved. I know none of this happened by my own strength. I was powerless to move it.

God is bigger than your addiction. Whether your addiction is food like mine was or something else – alcohol, drugs, pornography, compulsive busyness, overspending, workaholism, or anything else that has mastery over you, God is bigger. Invite Him into your brokenness, and He will heal you as you work in partnership with him to remove the idol from the throne of your heart and put God in His rightful place. If God could do it for me, then He can do it for you!

[Graphic: Photograph of a wooden plaque that says, “God is bigger.” Courtesy Grace Daniels.]

Feasting on Ashes

stuffedContinued from here.

After awakening to the reality that I had an eating disorder, I tried many ways to break free from it with little success. I tried bizarre diets to “trick” my metabolism into speeding up. I tried not allowing certain foods in the house, refusing to buy “fat pants,” counting calories, and other forms of dieting that never worked for long.

After entering therapy for the child abuse, I felt more hopeful because my therapist was unconcerned about the eating disorder. He said that as I healed my emotional pain, I would have less of a need to “stuff down” my emotions, so the eating disorder would resolve itself. While he was correct that the severity of binges eased with therapy, I was still binge eating several times a week. I was a long way from going three months without binge eating.

I also tried behavior modification, which I had limited success with. I instituted “cooling off” periods in which I would delay succumbing to the urge to binge eat for five minutes … and then 10 … and then 15 … During the “cooling off” period, I would use a more constructive way to manage my emotional pain, such as journaling, watching a comedy on TV, or calling a friend. If I still felt the urge to binge eat at the end of the “cooling off” period, I then gave myself permission to binge eat with no guilt. I found that about half the time, I could resist the urge after the cooling off period ended, which was progress but still not a cure.

Gradually, God healed the eating disorder a little at a time. As I filled up more with Him, I relied less on food. I came to realize that food was an idol. This verse resonated deeply with me:

Such a person feeds on ashes; a deluded heart misleads him;
he cannot save himself, or say, “Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?” ~ Is. 44:20

The thought of feasting on ashes spoke to me. I came to realize that I was looking for food to meet a need that only God could heal. This was the catalyst to turning to God to meet my emotional needs rather than food.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace inside a turkey over the word, “Stuffed.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Struggles with an Eating Disorder

mamma_miaContinued from here.

Binge eating disorder is an addiction to food. I had a difficult time accepting the label of addiction, but that’s exactly what it was. The biggest challenge was that I could not remove myself from food because I needed to eat in order to live. I had no concept of moderation, and I wasn’t eating to nourish my body – I was using food to “stuff down” my painful emotions. I was constantly in “feast” or “famine” mode, using shame to keep me in “famine” mode long enough to drop a size or two before gaining the weight back again.

Even though my eating was out of control, I lied to myself about having a problem. Back in the 1980’s, there wasn’t a name for this form of eating disorder. I didn’t starve myself or purge, so I did not recognize that I had an eating disorder, and I certainly did not view myself as “addicted” to food. I just thought I lacked willpower.

My “moment of truth” came one night in my 30’s. My husband was out of town and my baby was asleep when I felt the uncontrollable urge to binge on chocolate. The only chocolate in the house was cocoa powder, and the box included a recipe for a chocolate cake. I made a chocolate cake from scratch. As soon as the timer went off, I stuffed down the entire cake in one sitting. That was my rock bottom moment when I could no longer deny that I had a problem. I knew it wasn’t “normal” for someone to do what I had just done, but I didn’t know how to stop it.

By then, there was at least a name for my eating disorder: binge eating disorder. When I read the definition, I laughed. The article I read said that someone has binge eating disorder if she consumes a large number of calories (binges on food) at least once in a three month period. My reaction was that if I could restrict myself to bingeing only once every three months, I would consider myself cured!! Binge eating was a nightly or every-other-night struggle for me. I couldn’t imagine even going a week without bingeing on food unless I was shaming myself through self-hatred to diet.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace eating a huge plate of spaghetti and meatballs with her face covered in spaghetti and sauce under the words, “Mamma Mia!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

God is Bigger Than Addiction

binge1This morning, I stepped on the scale and was shocked by what I saw. I’m at my lowest weight in adulthood barring short-term, focused efforts to control my eating. This time, I haven’t made any effort at all to “control” my weight, and yet my weight is down – effortlessly.

The ironic part is that I no longer care about my weight. Don’t get me wrong – I want my body to be a healthy weight because it is the temple of the Holy Spirit. I want to fuel my body with healthy foods, exercise it, and rest it to honor God’s temple. I no longer care what number appears on the scale as long as my body is healthy. So, imagine my surprise to see the “magic number” that I worked decades to reach with little success!

How did this happen? Let me share one of my testimonies with you…

I have mentioned before that I was severely abused as a child. I had all of these painful emotions but no safe place to express them, so I “stuffed them down” with food. When I reached puberty, the emotions became too much to manage, so food became my primary coping mechanism. I learned that if I “stuffed my face” with a bag of chips or chocolates, the emotional pain would subside for a while. Of course, it always came back, but then I would simply “stuff it all back down” again with more food.

By the time I was in high school, my weight fluctuated by 20-30 lbs. I owned pants of several different sizes to accommodate my yo-yoing weight. I would binge eat & gain weight and then diet & lose weight, only to start all over again. I could not diet for long because then I couldn’t control the emotional pain. However, the shame of being overweight would drive me to diet, and I would use shame and self-loathing to force myself to restrict my food so I could lose weight again.

Years later, I learned I had an eating disorder called binge eating disorder, which is similar to bulimia nervosa without the purging. I tried to purge to avoid weight gain, but I was unable to make myself do it. So, I stayed on a rollercoaster of bingeing and dieting for decades.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace lying down on top of a huge pile of food. Courtesy Bitmoji.]